PASSENGER numbers have plunged by almost 80 per cent in the last year at stations across Southampton.

The number of people passing through Southampton stations has fallen by a whopping 77%.

Just 1.7 million passengers used the city’s stations during the whole of 2020-21.

In contrast, there were 7.1 million people the year before.

The busiest station was Southampton Central, which saw 1.4 million people pass through, but this too was down from 6.4 million in 2019-20.

The figures are based on research by the Office of Rail and Road.

The quietest station in Southampton was Millbrook which only welcomed 10,800 passengers last year, less than a third of the previous year’s 33,200.

However, the leader of Southampton City Council, Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry has said that the fall in passengers is expected due to the impact of the covid pandemic.

He added: “These figures highlight how important it is for us to support local businesses as they continue to recover.

“That’s why we’ve introduced a range of policies to help support our local economy, as part of our plan to Get Southampton Moving, including free parking in the evenings and on Sundays and £1 evening bus fares to encourage people back to Southampton, however, they wish to travel.

“The atmosphere in the city is currently buzzing with our amazing Christmas market and we’re working with GO! Southampton (the Business Improvement District) and other partners on more exciting events and initiatives to welcome people back. Our unique offer of shopping, culture, heritage, restaurants and nightlife here in Southampton means we are well-placed to bounce back stronger than ever.”

A South Western Railway (SWR) spokesperson told the Echo that it is now “building back a better network as well as a safe one,” but added: “During the last financial year, passenger numbers across the South Western Railway network, and the UK rail network as a whole, reduced sharply.

“Since then, numbers have increased steadily, with leisure travel returning particularly strongly.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, maintaining a safe environment for our customers and colleagues has been our top priority.”